The 1999 Sheffield Shield – Pura Milk Cup changeover

A bit more about the sudden name change for Australia’s first-class cricket competition from Sheffield Shield to Pura Milk Cup in November 1999.

(For a bit of background, see the article I wrote at the time for CricInfo.)

It aroused a lot of controversy at the time, not just because a national icon had suddenly lost its identity, but because of the way it happened: in the middle of a cricket season, and with the original Shield suddenly being locked away with no intention of being allowed to see the light of day again.

JH was asked for his opinion by Neil Mitchell on Melbourne’s 3AW on 19 November 1999, and this is the transcript:

MITCHELL:Pura Milk Cup, that’s our cricket [inaudible]. What do you think….

PRIME MINISTER:Well, I know the difficulty of getting money but look, we did have a Fosters Melbourne Cup.

MITCHELL:But at least we kept Melbourne in the…

PRIME MINISTER:Well, that’s right, that’s right. I wondered why we couldn’t say, you know, Pura Milk Sheffield Shield. I know it’s a bit of a mouthful but look, it’s always hard. I understand the problem that administrators have got and getting money into the Sheffield Shield is very important, into that competition, just does tug at a lot of us and it’s a pity you couldn’t have had the two things merge. I don’t know why the, I mean, presumably the company has said well, you have got to change the whole name otherwise the money is not there. Now, that puts the cricket authorities in a difficult position and I try and understand their position and not just blast off.

(source: https://pmtranscripts.pmc.gov.au/release/transcript-11075)

This transcript is the only reference prior to October 2003 that I can find on the PM’s website to any discussion of the “Sheffield Shield”. His sentiments about “Pura Milk Sheffield Shield” were fairly widely held, and indeed I supported them.

The view of the ACB and National Foods (producers of Pura Milk), however, that they did not want the presence of the Pura Milk brand to be diluted by combining it with the Sheffield Shield name, believing that people would simply continue calling it the Sheffield Shield in any case.

Some of us still do that, of course… though I personally think good riddance to Lord Sheffield. JH, I am sure, would never agree with that sentiment…

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